spaceSpace and Physics

Satellite Loses Contact With Earth After Unknown "Anomaly"


Jonathan O'Callaghan

Senior Staff Writer

Stock image of a satellite in orbit. Andrey Armyagov/Shutterstock

A satellite has gone dark, after an unknown anomaly during an attempt to move it into a new orbit.

Called EchoStar-3, it’s a communications satellite located in geostationary orbit about 35,000 kilometers (22,000 miles) above Earth. It’s run by the EchoStar satellite communication company based in Colorado, US.


The company said they were currently unable to communicate with the satellite. It’s not clear what happened exactly, but they are now working to resolve the issue. Despite the fault, however, they said that other satellites in a similar orbit remained safe.

"EchoStar has received FCC [Federal Communications Commission] authority for its current flight configuration and we are working in cooperation with the satellite manufacturer to re-establish a reliable link in order to recover and retire the spacecraft," said Derek de Bastos, CEO for EchoStar in a statement. "In spite of the anomaly, we believe that the current EchoStar III orbit does not present a significant risk to the operating satellites in the geostationary arc."

That’s all the information we’ve got at the moment, but we’ll update this post if we hear anything more. We do know the satellite has been in orbit for 20 years and was built by Lockheed Martin. It has been in an "inclined orbit". This means it does not orbit directly above the equator, but it can save more fuel. The spacecraft was five years beyond its operational lifetime.

This is not the first satellite to encounter problems recently. In early July, it appeared that the AMC-9 satellite was breaking apart in orbit, after what looked like an explosion. Fragments were seen orbiting with that satellite, which also lost contact with Earth.


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